FLUORIDE could be added to drinking water across County Durham in a bid to cut tooth decay among children.

Members of Durham County Council’s ruling Cabinet will be asked to vote next week on whether to carry out a full technical appraisal of a water fluoridisation scheme after an initial study showed it is believed to be feasible.

A report to go before the council says there are significant inequalities in oral health across County Durham, with 61 per cent of children suffering decay in the Woodhouse Close area of Bishop Auckland, compared to just six per cent in the Chesterle-Street South division.

Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, Cabinet member for Adult and Health services, said: “County Durham has significant oral health inequalities which we are taking action to tackle through our oral health strategy and action plan.

“Progressing to the technical appraisal is an initial step which will allow us to make an informed decision as to whether extending the community fluoridation scheme is the right course of action.”

Fluoride has been added to the water supply in the Derwentside area of the county since the 1960s, at a cost of around £50,000 a year, and the process is used in 26 local authorities across the UK, including on Tyneside and in Cumbria.

The report says that evidence from Public Health England states that water fluoridation is a safe and effective measure for individuals and communities at increased risk of tooth decay, such as those from more deprived backgrounds and other vulnerable groups

On average, five-year-olds in fluoridated areas are 15 per cent less likely to have had tooth decay than those in non-fluoridated areas, a figure which rises to 28 per cent when deprivation and ethnicity are taken into account.

The initial study found that it would be feasible to fluoridate drinking water across the whole of County Durham, but as it would also affect water to properties in neighbouring Sunderland and South Tyneside, all three local authorities would need to work together.

At the next Cabinet meeting, which takes place on December 13 at the Town Hall in Durham, councillors will be asked to agree to a full technical appraisal, paid for by NHS England, Durham County Council and neighbouring authorities.

*Original article online at http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/NEWS/15714901.Should_fluoride_be_added_to_County_Durham__39_s_tap_water_/